Saturday, October 10, 2015

A fast alert or a slow editor?

Okay, that is a first. My co-author and I just learned that we got a paper accepted not from a message from the editor but from my Google Scholar Alert on the topic we are working on. Apparently the journal published the abstract as "just accepted" on its website before even telling us that the manuscript was accepted. Weird.

Botany picture #215: Lemna disperma

No time to write something substantial, so here is another plant seen on our recent holiday trip. I have long found floating plants fascinating; and one of the most interesting aspects is how quickly and drastically their morphology changes compared to their closest relatives. In the case of duckweed like the above species, they are part of the Araceae family and thus represent perhaps the most extreme example of massive reduction in size and complexity found in all the flowering plants.

The species in this case is Lemna disperma. Or at least that is what the Flora of New South Wales suggests, I have not actually checked against a world wide key to the species of Lemna. The genus, however, is easily recognised. There are five genera of duckweeds, and simplifying a bit the really tiny rootless specks are Wolffia, rootless but larger and longish, often boomerang-shaped ones are Wolffiella, those with only one root per thallus are Lemna, and those with multiple roots are Landoldtia and Spirodela.

For those interested in more about the bizarre world of duckweeds, there is a tremendously detailed website available, although of course it has a bit of a focus on the country of its author.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

New England holiday trip, third and final part

We are back now, so this post will cover the rest of our trip in one go.

Another nice waterfall, the Dangar falls north of Dorrigo. Later we passed two more little waterfalls, Sherrard and Newell Falls, but they were directly on the Dorrigo-Bellingen road and thus not easy to photograph.

A theme of this last part of our trip was giant tree tourism. Above is the Giant Tallowood (Eucalyptus microcorys) east of Megan. A sign announced that it had a diametre of 3.14 m and a height of 56.5 m. I do not know what the virtues of its wood are, but the locals appear to consider the species to be very significant, as one can see a Tallowood Cafe and suchlike.

After spending a night in pleasant little Bellingen - the most hippie town I have ever seen in Australia - we were essentially on our way back. We left the New England area even in the loosest sense and drove south along the coast. But before driving through in a dedicated manner we spent some time in the vicinity of Laurieton. This is another town that I can only recommend - our motel, the Indian restaurant in the centre, and the surrounding landscape were all extremely enjoyable.

As for that landscape, the area has three forested hills that are so similar that they were named the Three Brothers. The above picture shows Laurieton as seen from the North Brother in Dooragan National Park.

The rainforest on the southern slopes of the North Brother was amazing. I would not have thought to find strangler figs and well-developed Brettwurzeln (buttress roots) so far south of the tropics. There were massive tree ferns and slender palms, epiphytic ferns we had not seen before, and trees with wonderfully soft, corky bark. The picture here shows another very odd plant: Gymnostachys anceps. Although its overall habit immediately suggests a sedge, it is of the arum family Araceae.

To give more of an idea of the overall landscape, this is a view from Donbogan Lookout in Kattang Nature Reserve, with the base of the North Brother just reaching into the picture from the right.

In Middle Brother National Park we then continued our giant tree tourism. Shown here is the Bird Tree, considered to be the largest tree in New South Wales by volume. Unfortunately there was no sign providing its measurements or species name...

...but it is surely an impressive specimen! Interestingly, there were quite a few other visitors, whereas the Giant Tallowood did not have any apart from us. Then again, that was during the week, and we saw the Bird Tree on a long weekend, so who knows.

Friday, October 2, 2015

New England holiday trip, part 2

We were without internet access for a few days, so this post is a bit behind the time; it covers Tuesday and Wednesday. We made our way eastwards of Armidale along the aptly named Waterfall Way and spent two nights at Thungutti Campground in New England National Park. Problem was, it is reasonably close to the peak of Point Lookout, a mountain of more than 1,500 m, so the nights were cold!

Anyway, there were indeed lots of waterfalls and nice lookouts.

The first picture shows Gara Gorge as seen from the eponymous lookout. This is still near Armidale and fairly dry at the moment.

Here shown are the Wollomombi Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and the smaller Chandlers Falls to the right above them. Wollomombi Falls are considered to be the second tallest waterfall in Australia.

The other waterfall in this post is the Upper Ebor Falls in Guy Fawkes National Park. As the name implies there is a lower step further down; it seems taller but less photogenic.

Back to forested slopes: A view from the summit area of Point Lookout. We were lucky with the timing, as some time later it got cloudy.

Finally, something botanical: Lophozonia moorei (= Nothofagus moorei, Nothofagaceae). This is the first southern beech I have seen that has large leaves like the northern beeches of the genus Fagus. The southern beeches I have encountered before - in Patagonia, Tasmania and New Zealand - all had very small leaves.

By the way, I still don't really understand why Nothofagaceae can't just be Nothofagus, and why Nothofagaceae can't be in Fagaceae given their close similarity to Fagus. (I assume the two families do form a clade?) I guess I am a lumper at the genus level.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New England holiday trip, part 1

We are making use of school holidays to go on a little trip to Australia's New England area, i.e. the north-east of New South Wales. This is the first time we visit it. We have been making our way there slowly over Saturday and Sunday, and on Sunday evening we were generously welcomed to Armidale by botany professor Jeremy Bruhl, his family, and fellow botanist Ian Telford. We will explore waterfalls, forests and lookouts of the New England high country over the next few days.

The above is the view from Moonbi Lookout back towards Tamworth, the last really large town we passed through before reaching Armidale (it is too far away to be visible though).

Today I dropped into the N.C.W. Beadle Herbarium of the University of New England, of which herbarium Jeremy Bruhl is the director. Read more about this scientific collection, its importance and history on its website.

An impressively floriferous and sweetly smelling shrub we saw on the way near Premer is this Santalaceae. I am reasonably sure it is Choretrum candollei.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Floriade 2015

Impressions from our visit to the Floriade spring festival yesterday.

Tulip mania! Interestingly, the red ones were still behind the white and yellow ones, meaning that the plantings will only really come into their own in a week or so.

With the first World War a hundred years ago, Australia has had war related events since last year and is set to continue until 2018. As a German I find it fascinating to see the difference in perspective, as in Europe the horrors of WW2 have totally overshadowed anything that happened in the first, which is also much further back in the past. But Australia lost such a large number of young men that WW1 left a more lasting impression than it did in much of Europe.

Anyway, poppies are apparently associated with remembrance of war. Here people could pay a bit of money for a poppy to place on the wall, and the proceeds went to a charity.

The view from above - this is the first time I was on the Floriade's Ferris Wheel.